If you wanted the best possible advice for improving your sales, my instinct would be to tell you to improve your sales approach, develop greater business acumen, and learn to build consensus. Even though that is what I would want to say to you, it isn’t the advice I would give you. Instead, I will tell you to steal back as much time as you possibly can and devote it to selling.
If you want to be a writer, you have to write. If you’re going to be an artist, you have to create. If you’re going to be a leader, you must lead. And if you want to be a salesperson, you have to sell.
There is a truth about time management that trumps any advice from an expert on time management. You cannot manage time; you can only control what you do with yours. Time management is mostly made of priorities and the discipline to do what’s most important instead of the ten thousand things available to you. You steal the time for what matters by taking it from the things you do that make no impact.
If you are going to steal back your time, here are a few ideas about where you can find it.
- Email: Always first on my list of things that steal your time without actually helping you sell more. Most salespeople sit in front of their computer with their email open, allowing themselves to rest in reactive mode, waiting for the next email to prod them to do something. That something isn’t going to be creating a new opportunity or winning it, the only two things we do in sales. By reducing the time you spend in your inbox, you make time for sales-related activities, like talking to your prospective clients on the phone, or better, face to face in their building.
- Non-Sales Related Customer Requests: Your clients are going to make requests of you that have little to do with the outcomes you sold and promised them. They are going to call you when they have service issues, and since you were the one that convinced them to choose you are your company, they need and deserve your help, even if that doesn’t mean what most salespeople believe. You own the outcome you sold, not the transactions that accompany those outcomes. Steal back the time you spend chasing down orders, generating reports, and retyping invoices. Eliminate the time you spend taking orders, following up on those orders, and playing the role of glorified customer service specialist.
- Say No to Task Force, Projects, and Initiatives: It’s flattering to when someone asks you to participate in some project, to be part of a task force, or to help with some new initiative that has nothing to do with creating or capturing new opportunities. While any or all of these options might be interesting, and it might be flattering to be asked, you have too little time to create value for your clients and prospective clients. When you say yes to these projects, you are saying no to prospecting, client meetings, and the few other vital activities that generate sales.
- All the Other Distractions: The social channels can sometimes feel like work. You hop onto Linkedin to do a little research before a meeting, and pretty soon you are thirty minutes into scrolling. Endlessly scrolling and looking for something novel to read or watch. There is also the water cooler, where you can chat about things having nothing to do with sales. And then there is lunch, a time you could use to eat with a client or prospect that you might waste by eating alone. When there are better things to do with your time, then do those things.
If you want to steal back this time, you have to trade up for things more important—and more impactful.
Trade-Up Your Priorities
There aren’t too many things you need to prioritize in sales. But those few things, as Pareto teaches us, produce most of your results.
- Prospecting: The unbreakable law in sales is that you cannot close opportunities that you haven’t opened. Creating an opportunity comes before capturing it, which means it is a prerequisite or what a project manager would describe as something in a critical path. You must create opportunities first, and then you can pursue and win them. You trade up when you spend your time here.
- Sales Calls and Meetings: If you are going to create and win new opportunities, you must have meetings with your prospective clients and your existing clients. I can think of nothing as valuable as the time you spend with a client or prospect when it comes to improving your sales results.
- Planning and Preparing: If you want to be effective with your time prospecting and on client meetings, you need to plan your week ahead of time, and you need to plan to make your meetings as impactful as possible, for you and your clients. It isn’t as exciting as other things you might do with your time, but it is the mark of a true professional, and someone focused on creating value and making a difference.
Time Once Spent
Time can be spent but once. Once gone, it is lost to you forever. It is reckless to waste time unless you intend to waste it, in which case, have at it, but not while you are at work. There is enough time available for selling, but only if you steal it back from the activities that are not related to the results you are responsible for creating, and only if you use your times for the very few things that are most important to your results.
If you want to sell more, spend more time selling.